Talib Kweli Greene (born October 3, 1975), better known as Talib Kweli, is an American MC from Brooklyn, New York. He is one of the most critically, if not commercially, successful rappers in Hip hop music. His first name in Arabic means "student" or "seeker"; his middle name in Swahili means "true". Kweli first gained recognition through Black Star, a collaboration with fellow MC Mos Def.
Born in Brooklyn, Kweli grew up in a highly educated household in Park Slope. His mother, Brenda Greene, is an English professor at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York and his father a sociology professor. His younger brother, Jamal Greene, is a professor of Constitutional Law at Columbia Law School. As a youth, he was drawn to Afrocentric rappers, such as De La Soul and other members of the Native Tongues Posse whom he had met in high school. Talib Kweli was a student at Cheshire Academy, a boarding school in Connecticut. He was also a student at Brooklyn Technical High School, before he was kicked out. He later studied experimental theater at New York University (NYU).
Early career (1997-2001)
Kweli made his professional debut in 1997, with featured appearances on "Doom," an album by Cincinnati, Ohio group Mood (Main Flow, Donte, Jahson). In Cincinnati, Kweli also met DJ Hi-Tek and the two collaborated on a few well received underground recordings as Reflection Eternal. Shortly afterwards, upon returning to New York, he reconnected with Mos Def and formed Black Star. Kweli brought along Hi-Tek to produce their first and only album, 1998's Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star. The album, released amidst a late '90s renaissance of conscious, Afrocentric hip hop, was immediately hailed by critics and achieved modest mainstream success. When Kweli and Mos Def parted ways shortly thereafter, Kweli and Hi-Tek continued their Reflection Eternal partnership on the 2000 album Train of Thought, which was likewise met with critical acclaim, but modest sales.
Start of solo career (2002-2003)
Following Train of Thought, Kweli and Hi-Tek split as well, and Kweli used his first truly solo debut to attempt a move toward a more mainstream sound. 2002's Quality accomplished this goal to some extent, featuring production by a host of different producers, including DJ Quik and Kanye West. The album was met with wide spread critical acclaim and received some mainstream attention thanks to the West-produced single "Get By."
Rise in cultural popularity
In 2004, Talib Kweli, along with Bob Moore's Amazing Mongrels, supported the Beastie Boys on their "Challah At Your Boy World Tour," participated in a photo shoot by the amateur photographer Ben Fink Shaprio, and appeared in a few Dilated Peoples songs, including a live remix later featured on the video game NBA Street Vol. 2.
Kweli has used television appearances extensively to increase visibility, notably on MTV's Wild 'N Out, and several performances on Chappelle's Show with long-time collaborator Mos Def; these performances were a product of host Chappelle's friendship with Kweli. Chappelle in turn participated in a number of skits on Kweli's albums "Train of Thought" and "Quality"- impersonating several people including Nelson Mandela. Kweli also had a guest spot on Kanye West's widely successful debut album The College Dropout on the track "Get 'Em High". West has produced some of Kweli's songs, including his biggest commercial hit "Get By". West also includes a nod to Kweli on the song "Breathe in, Breathe Out" from his album "The College Dropout". The lyrics read: "Golly more of this bullshit ice rap/ I got to 'pologize to Mos and Kweli", an acknowledgement of Kweli's meaningful message spread while part of Blackstar. Kweli can be seen in a commercial for the NCAA's Big Ten Conference, rapping about the league's basketball teams. He also provided the voice of the protagonist in the graffiti-themed video game Marc Eck?'s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, released in 2006.
Talib and fellow rapper artist Mos Def purchased Nkiru, which is Brooklyn's oldest black-owned bookstore, and converted it into the Nkiru Center for Education and Culture.
Kweli's stature continued to grow, particularly fueled by a line from the track "Moment of Clarity" on Jay-Z's 2003 record, The Black Album: "If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli." Kweli responded to this in his track "Ghetto Show" on his 2004 album The Beautiful Struggle by stating "If lyrics sold then truth be told/I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay-Z."
Middle career (2004-2006)
In 2004, he released his second solo album and final Rawkus release, The Beautiful Struggle, which debuted at no.14 in the billboard top 100. The album featured much more commercial production, and although Kweli's lyrics retained their socio-political content, he affected a somewhat harder persona. The album failed to cross over into the mainstream and suffered a critical backlash.
In 2005, Kweli released a Mixtape-CD off of his newly formed Blacksmith Records. The project was called Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free Mix CD, a title which is considered likely a response to the criticism of The Beautiful Struggle.
On Right About Now: The Official Sucka Free Mix CD, Talib Kweli sampled Ben Kweller's "In Other Words" for his own song "Ms. Hill". In part 7 of Kweller's video podcast series "One Minute Pop Song," Kweller said he found Kweli's use of the song "a little fucked up" due to the fact that it was sampled without permission.
Recent career (2007-2008)
On December 31, 2006, Kweli released nine songs he recorded with acclaimed underground producer Madlib for free download in conjunction with the web site for Stones Throw Records, the label to which Madlib is signed. The album was entitled Liberation, of which Talib later was quoted by XXL magazine as stating releasing the album was liberating to him; "The idea that I could put out an album like that: record it in my house, put it out for free and get that type of response." In 2007, the album was made available for purchase.
For his newest release, Kweli formed his own record label, Blacksmith Records, and has recently signed acclaimed rapper Jean Grae and the group Strong Arm Steady. He also signed a new distribution deal with Warner Bros. Records for Blacksmith Records. His latest solo album is called Eardrum and was released on Aug 21, 2007. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200. The first single was Listen!!!.
Kweli embarked on a national Australian tour in October, 2007. In 2007, a bootleg import CD containing rare and collaborative songs was released entitled Focus. Recently Talib has joined MTV's hit show MADE and filmed an episode in the small town of Arlington, Massachusetts, as well as SMT Studios in New York City. He was the coach of Colin Colt, a young man who wanted to be made into a rap star.
In a rockumentary, Call+Response, headed by Justin Dillon, Kweli performed "Broken Glass" in support of the film's cause: a movement against slavery and human trafficking.
Future projects (2009-present)
Kweli confirmed in a recent interview with VIBE magazine that the title of his next album will be Prisoner of Consciousness, a title derived from Talib's constant labeling as a "conscious rapper" and based on Nigerian reggae artist Majek Fashek's album "Prisoner of Conscience."
Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek have both said they are recording a second Reflection Eternal album which will be a follow-up to Train of Thought. The album is to be called Revolution is Permanent and is planned to be released in fall of 2009.
In March 2008, Kweli was featured on the 9th Wonder and Buckshot track "Hold It Down".
Talib is currently recording a collaborative album titled Party Robot with R&B singer Res and musician Graph Nobel under the group alias Idle Warship. They have released one song, "Industry Diary" from the upcoming project.
In February 2009 it was announced that Talib would be featured in the graphic novel-turned-animated series Blokhedz on Missiong.com, voicing the lead part of the character Blak.
Talib will also be the featured guest at the fifth installment of Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg's acclaimed live interview series "Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg." Talib joins a distinguished list of previous guests including DJ Premier, ?uestlove of The Roots, Q-Tip and Raekwon. Noisemakers with Peter Rosenberg featuring Talib Kweli will take place at 92YTribeca on October 21, 2009.
Talib Kweli married DJ Eque on May 9, 2009 in Bel Air. The two have been together for approximately two years.